The AutoMicrobic System (AMS) represents years of intensive research and development by McDonnell Douglas Corp. that originated with a NASA study aimed at development of a fully automated microbial detection and identification system for spacecraft use. A urine specimen is placed into the system, where it is subjected to different freeze-dried microbe nutrients for the nine most common pathogens. An electro-optical scanner studies each specimen once an hour through a 4-to-13 hour cycle, operating automatically. Changes in cell growths on each culture are monitored by computer. The presence of pathogens is indicated when growth reaches a predetermined level. The system also enumerates the pathogens and specifies the type. Developed initially to handle urine testing, AMS soon is expected to allow analyses of blood, spinal fluid, and other body fluids. An additional capability under development is "susceptibility testing," or the determination of which microbe-killing agents-such as penicillin or other antibiotics-would be most effective in eliminating the pathogens. The whole process of detecting, identifying, and enumerating the pathogens and determining susceptibility is accomplished in less half the time required for the manual procedure. The AMS minimizes human error, reduces technician time , and increases laboratory output.